Self-service shopping is growing in popularity among consumers, according to the latest Customer Experience Report from Cisco, in which most consumers revealed they are willing to shop in a completely automated store, and half prefer self-service check-outs. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

The study examined the impact of automation, self-service and omni-channel shopping experiences, and found that 61% of consumers around the world are open to shopping at a 'self-service' fully automated store with vending machines and kiosk stations offering virtual customer service.

Additionally, when checking out, over half of consumers globally (52%) said they prefer self-check-out stations to avoid waiting in line to make purchases. The younger consumers were the most accepting of this shopping experience with 57% of Generation Y (aged 18-29) and 55% of Generation X shoppers (aged 30-49) preferring self-check-out, while only 45% of Baby Boomers (aged 50+) said the same.

Overall, the report demonstrates consumer interest in more automated and personalised shopping experiences; the type of connections made possible by what Cisco describes as the 'Internet of Everything' (IoE). The so-called Internet of Everything brings together people, processes, data and electronic devices to make networked connections more relevant and valuable. In fact, Cisco recently published an economic analysis of it that identified US$14.4 trillion in bottom-line business value that is expected to be created over the coming decade by 'Internet of Everything' innovations.

The company surveyed 1,511 consumers in ten countries to examine the perceptions of consumers about their ideal retail shopping experience, and found that:

  • Omni-channel shopping continues to grow with 34% of global consumers using multiple channels when shopping. Some 23% of consumers had recently purchased in-store based on research they did online, and 11% of shoppers had purchased online after seeing goods in a retail store.
  • When researching products in a store, 43% prefer using their own mobile phone while 57% prefer using in-store touch screens.
  • While 61% would be willing to shop in a completely automated store with vending machines with products and kiosk stations, 42% of consumers said they would actually prefer to shop in these kinds of environments.
  • 49% of consumers would allow an automated engine to make purchases for replacement products automatically (for example, this could include restocking milk in the refrigerator).
  • 52% said they would be likely to purchase a device to help them stay on-budget for the retail purchases of clothes and other items.
  • 65% said they are comfortable receiving retail advice based on their location through their mobile device.
  • Although many shoppers want automation when purchasing, consumers are still divided with 58% of consumers preferring help from an in-store associate. And, when shopping online, slightly more prefer to instant message with a sales associate (30%), or call them on the phone (28%), instead of sending an email (27%).
  • Half of consumers (54%) use mobile phones when shopping in store, and 48% said they use mobile applications while shopping, yet only 27% said they use retail mobile applications (and, of that 27% 56% use apps for checking prices, 53% for finding sales, discounts and coupons, 48% for scanning barcodes, and 45% for reading consumer product reviews).
  • Almost half (49%) of consumers are comfortable with retailers collecting personal information when shopping online in exchange for more personalised recommendations and customer service.
  • 58% are willing to share their personal measurements and sizes with their retailer in exchange for more personalised recommendations on future purchases.
  • 39% said they would share their personal income data in exchange for more personalised service, discounts and sale promotions.
  • 54% of consumers globally said they are happy with retailers storing their purchase history in exchange for more personalised service.
  • More than 35% of consumers are happy (25%) or at least don't really care (10%) if retailers share personal information about them with manufacturers and suppliers, in exchange for more personalised services, while 46% said they are quite selective about which retailer websites they provide with personal information.
  • Only 43% of consumers feel their data is protected by clothing retailers overall (both in store and online), and only 32% trust retailers to store their credit card information in exchange for faster checkout, while 60% of consumers trust certain retailer websites to keep information about them secure.
  • When shopping for clothing online, 53% rely on other shopper reviews to make their purchasing decisions, while only 23% rely on recommendations made from retailer employees via online chat.
  • When a retailer is resolving a customer service issue reported via social media, the majority of consumers (94%) said they would expect a personal response, with most (68%) expecting an personal email and 46% expecting a phone call.

"This study shows a growing consumer desire for an omni-channel shopping experience, where the speed and personalisation they receive online is delivered in an increasing self-service manner in the store," concluded Jon Stine of Cisco's retail services practice.